Smartphones have come a long way over the years and have become far more than simple tools for making calls and sending texts. Now, your smartphone can make financial transactions, secure your home or car, and yes, monitor your health and lead you towards a healthier lifestyle.
A variety of mobile health apps currently exist for android and iOS devices, and each app brings something unique to the table. Some are entirely free, while some charge a small fee for their services. But before we look at some of the reigning health apps currently available, let’s first look into the usefulness of mobile health apps in general.
Do mobile health apps really work?
According to Domains4Less, “Gone are the days when health professionals could only see and help patients in person. And limited are the days when websites and phone calls were the only alternative to physically speaking to a patient. Health apps are the new frontier …”
The current breed of mobile health apps available serve mainly two functions, one of which is the recording or collection of your vitals which, depending on the app, may then be shared with a health care provider. Other apps function by providing you immediate access to health information like workouts and nutrition data which can help you live a healthier lifestyle. This means that with the help of an app or a combination of apps that deliver the above functions, you can stay healthy and may not actually need to see a doctor unless you are suffering from very serious symptoms.
Even though there is no empirical evidence yet of how much health apps contribute to healthy living, there is proof that such digital tools do make you take greater notice of changes in your health, such as weight increase, the need for more physical activity, or an erratic heart rate and thus gives you an opportunity to get these issues under control. If you use such apps consistently, they are bound to eventually contribute positively to your health.
Other ways specialized health apps can help include:
Monitoring blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, this type of app could be of tremendous benefit to you. Some apps in this category even offer information on lifestyle changes you can make to control your blood pressure. Such apps work by either hooking them up to a blood pressure cuff or by entering your blood pressure results manually into the app.
Monitor your physical activity. Medical science has repeatedly proven that physical activity is the key to a healthy life in every way. The apps in this category make use of sensors in your smartphone or other smart gear to track walking, running, cycling, and even climbing steps. Certain apps in this category can also recommend workout routines to help keep you more active and improve your overall health.
Monitor your diet. Apps in this category let you keep track of what you eat and drink, as well as how your diet positively or negatively impacts your health. Depending on the app, it may also help you compare and choose the foods that are best for your overall health.
Medication reminders. With these types of app, you won’t forget to take your medication ever again. This can be very useful if you’re taking various different kinds of medication at different times. Many people who accidentally skip medication doses usually find that there’s no improvement in the condition they are trying to treat.
This app is free to download but requires subsequent payments. The price is worth it, however, considering the benefits of the app. With Doctor on Demand, you can conveniently organize video visits with certified physicians who can promptly provide you important medical advice anywhere you are in the world via your phone. Doctors on the app can provide treatment via the app for cough/cold, allergies, minor infections, flu, as well as emotional health concerns. The services are also covered by insurance (depending on your health insurance provider).
Guest post by Chris Boone, CEO, Health Data Consortium.
Consumers are receiving more health data than ever, as evidenced by the myriad mobile apps (WeightWatchers, Mindshift, Nike+ Training Club, etc.) and wearables (FitBit, iWatch, Jawbone, etc.) now available. With health data so pervasive, health literacy has become a commonly discussed issue as it pertains to consumers’ ability to obtain and process healthcare information to make better healthcare decisions. But, with the advent of so much data, there must be a national emphasis on the importance of health data literacy, as well, to empower patients to leverage available data in a meaningful way that can improve their and their loved ones’ health outcomes.
The Health Data Literacy Landscape
There remain challenges to the health data movement – such as privacy concerns – and as a result, questions around how to improve health data literacy remain largely unexplored. The road to health data literacy starts with digital access to health information, and new technologies that seamlessly augment consumers’ daily health practices to enable better health decision-making. Interestingly enough, however, the rate at which health data entrepreneurs and innovators are producing incredible technologies may be exceeding the rate at which consumers are able to digest and use the information.
So, how do we leverage the opportunities provided by greater access to health data without overwhelming the consumer?
Data Visualization and the User Experience
Once data becomes accessible to consumers, data visualization is a key component to ensuring it is understandable and actionable. Consumers must be able to comprehend and digest data to put it to work.
In addition – and like in any other industry – the user experience must be a top priority when building new technologies. We need developers to build mobile apps, wearables, websites, etc. that are simple in design with an emphasis on providing useful and easily actionable data for consumers.
A recent study by mobile engagement provider Mobiquity, Inc has found that while 70 percent of people use mobile apps on a daily basis to track calorie intake and monitor physical activities, only 40 percent share data and insights with their doctors.
Working with an independent research firm, Mobiquity’s “Get Mobile, Get Healthy: The Appification of Health & Fitness” study reveals the opportunity for healthcare professionals and organizations to leverage mobile to drive positive behavior change and healthier patient outcomes. According to the survey, 34 percent of mobile health and fitness app users said they would increase their use of apps if their doctors actively recommended it.
According to Mobiquity’s research,73 percent of people claim to be healthier by using a smartphone and apps to track their health and fitness. Fifty three percent discovered they were eating more calories than they realized. Sixty-three percent intend to continue, and even increase, their mobile health tracking in the next five years; 55 percent of today’s mobile health app users also plan to introduce wearable devices like pedometers, wristbands and smartwatches to their health monitoring in coming years.
Smartphone health tracking trumps social networking
For many, using a smartphone to track their health and fitness is more important to them than using their phone for social networking (69 percent), mobile shopping (68 percent), listening to music (60 percent) and making/receiving phone calls (30 percent).
But there’s room for improvement
What’s stopping people from using their health and fitness apps more? Doctor recommendations would be a big motivator, said 34 percent. Privacy was also a concern for 61 percent. But the chief reason people quit using these apps is simply because they forget – something that could and should be addressed by app developers to ensure health apps are less disposable.
“Our study shows there’s a huge opportunity for medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations to use mobile to drive positive behavior change and, as a result, better patient outcomes,” said Scott Snyder, president and chief strategy officer at Mobiquity. “The gap will be closed by those who design mobile health solutions that are indispensable and laser-focused on users’ goals, and that carefully balance data collection with user control and privacy.”
Mobiquity commissioned independent research firm Research Now to survey 1,000 consumers who use, or plan to use, health and fitness mobile apps. The study was conducted between March 5-11, 2014.